Dress­ing the cool kids

From Ven­tura’s hills to the steps of City Hall, the events took ad­van­tage of what makes L.A. spe­cial.

Los Angeles Times - - FASHION - By Adam Tschorn Bharbi Hazarika con­trib­uted to this re­port.

An­other Los Angeles Fash­ion Week is in the rearview mir­ror. And, while the twice-yearly slate of run­way shows, pre­sen­ta­tions and events clus­tered around the Cal­i­for­nia Mar­ket Cen­ter’s mar­ket week con­tin­ues to suf­fer from a host of lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges (in­clud­ing, but not lim­ited to, mul­ti­ple com­pet­ing or­ga­niz­ers, farflung venues and a cal­en­dar that ends up stretch­ing across three weeks), the stand­outs from Oc­to­ber’s re­cently wrapped run of fash­ion hap­pen­ings all seemed to have one thing in com­mon: seiz­ing on what makes South­ern Cal­i­for­nia spe­cial.

For the sopho­more out­ing of Ve­gan Fash­ion Week, which kicked off on Oct. 10 with an awards show at the Ace Ho­tel in down­town L.A., that meant tap­ping celebrity pre­sen­ters Mena Su­vari, Moby and singer-song­writer Kate Nash and show­cas­ing de­sign­ers that fo­cus on an­i­mal­free fash­ion. The event’s creator, Paris-to-L.A. trans­plant Em­manuelle Rienda, said she picked the City of An­gels as the place to base her event for a spe­cific rea­son. “I think Los Angeles is so ad­vanced eth­i­cally,” she told The Times. “It just passed the fur ban. We banned foie gras. We have a com­mu­nity that is al­ready very ve­gan. … It res­onates with me and this move­ment. … I am try­ing to es­tab­lish L.A. [as a] new eth­i­cal fash­ion des­ti­na­tion.”

L.A. Fash­ion Week, which forged a re­la­tion­ship with the Pe­tersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum in Au­gust of last year, re­turned to that Mir­a­cle Mile lo­ca­tion for a third sea­son of shows Oct. 8-12. It was no­table for the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional brands in the mix, in­clud­ing Lower (a South Korean footwear brand), Luooif Stu­dio (hail­ing from Lon­don) and a hand­ful of Thai­land-based brands (Kanapot Aun­sorn and Renim Project among them). “On the fash­ion scene, a lot of brands look at L.A. as a great PR play, a con­ver­sa­tion starter,” said event or­ga­nizer Arthur Chip­man. “The cool kids are in L.A., so it re­ally helps all these brands com­ing in from Aus­tralia and all these other places.”

That doesn’t mean there weren’t tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits to be had for the home­town brands on the docket, par­tic­u­larly Coral Castillo, whose Oct. 11 run­way show was spon­sored by the ac­count­ing firm Moss Adams, long­time pre­sen­ter of the Moss Adams Fash­ion In­no­va­tor Award, which comes with $5,000 worth of con­sult­ing ser­vices. “The [MAFI] is given to a de­signer who has done some­thing in­no­va­tive with re­spect to fash­ion and de­sign over the past year,” said the firm’s Martin Hughes in pre­sent­ing the award be­fore the run­way show. “And this year’s de­signer cer­tainly de­serves that award with her edgy and bold yet beau­ti­fully fem­i­nine de­signs.”

Castillo, who was born in Mex­ico City and stud­ied fash­ion de­sign at the Art In­sti­tute of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco, de­signs her col­lec­tions in an Echo Park stu­dio and sells them on­line to clients as close as SoCal and as far away as the U.K. and Greece. She’s sent pre­vi­ous col­lec­tions down L.A.’s run­ways in the past and is a firm be­liever in the run­way-show for­mat. “It’s like magic see­ing all these beau­ti­ful women in beau­ti­ful dresses,” Castillo said in a back­stage preshow in­ter­view. “I don’t think we should lose that. I know you can find out all about clothes [by look­ing on­line], but there’s noth­ing like the ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing it live. I love that.”

The de­signer said her most re­cent spring and sum­mer 2020 col­lec­tion was in­spired by clas­si­cal mythol­ogy. “I love how Greek peo­ple por­trayed women. If you see the god­dess Nike, she’s a woman and she’s beau­ti­ful and she’s the god­dess of vic­tory and strength and every­thing that is glo­ri­ous. Think of the [Winged Vic­tory of Samoth­race] sculp­ture — I wanted to bring that to the run­way. I want women to feel beau­ti­ful and strong and pow­er­ful and feel like they can con­quer the world if they want to.” On the run­way, that took the form of flow­ing dresses that mixed fem­i­nine touches — fringe, tiered ruf­fles and f lo­ral lace — with metal em­bel­lish­ments in­clud­ing stud­ding and grom­met-like rings. (It wasn’t all dresses, though; there was a sharp-look­ing pantsuit ac­ces­sorized with an asym­met­ri­cal fringe­trail­ing belt that would be the per­fect en­sem­ble for a modern-day god­dess of vic­tory.)

The next day, the scene shifted 64 miles north to a ru­ral patch of land in Ven­tura County, where L.A.-based de­signer Heidi Mer­rick pre­sented her first full run­way col­lec­tion (and her first menswear pieces) framed by grassy hills. “This place calms me. I be­come more my­self when I’m here,” the de­signer said of the 55-acre mix of or­chards, forest­land and sage­filled fields out­side of Ojai. “And it gives me the in­spi­ra­tion to go back [to L.A.] and do stuff.”

On Oct. 13, the fo­cus was on down­town L.A., where two things of note were un­spool­ing. One was the sec­ond (and sold-out) Unity: Equal­ity Fash­ion Week gala — or­ga­nized to honor and up­lift the LGBTQIA2S com­mu­nity — which took place at the Globe The­atre and where Al­li­son K. Joseph of Au­gust Brave re­ceived the emerg­ing de­signer award.

“From de­sign­ers, hair and makeup artists to mod­els, we cre­ated a plat­form for mem­bers of our com­mu­nity to shine and in­crease vis­i­bil­ity,” event or­ga­nizer Nik Kacy, shoe de­signer and non­bi­nary queer ac­tivist, said. “Hav­ing a safe space with in­clu­sion and di­ver­sity is our mis­sion, be­cause through ex­po­sure and vis­i­bil­ity is where un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance comes from.”

The other big event was the first-ever fash­ion show from streetwear brand the Hun­dreds in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a col­lec­tive of in­dige­nous-owned la­bels called Ob­sid­ian, which took place on the front steps of City Hall as part of the city’s of­fi­cial In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day cel­e­bra­tion.

On Oct. 17, Art Hearts Fash­ion picked up the man­tle, kick­ing off a four-day slate of run­way shows and art in­stal­la­tions at the Ma­jes­tic Down­town that marked the group’s 13th sea­son pre­sent­ing shows in L.A. The oc­ca­sion was noted by the of­fice of L.A. City Coun­cil­man José Huizar, which is­sued a cer­tifi­cate of recog­ni­tion — pre­sented be­fore the night’s first run­way show — to or­ga­nizer Erik Rosete for the group’s “con­tri­bu­tion to the cul­tural di­ver­sity and eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to the city of Los Angeles.”

That was fol­lowed by the run­way show of Char­bel Zoe, who hails from Le­banon and whose glitz-and-glam­our gowns have been seen on the likes of Jen­nifer Lopez, Shakira and Nicki Mi­naj. His run­way col­lec­tion served up plenty of red car­pet-wor­thy looks, many fes­tooned with in­tri­cate bead­ing and em­broi­dery. De­spite the abun­dance of ruf­fles, tulle and frill, the col­lec­tion had a cer­tain ar­mor-like vibe to it, which re­minded us of Castillo’s afore­men­tioned Vic­to­ri­ous col­lec­tion pre­sented the pre­vi­ous week.

The stun­ner of Zoe’s col­lec­tion was a gown with a bodice of beaded flames and a vo­lu­mi­nous skirt of red tulle that’s al­most cer­tainly des­tined for a fu­ture awards show red car­pet.

El­iz­a­beth Lipp­man

HEIDI Mer­rick showed her spring 2020 col­lec­tion and her first menswear col­lec­tion, on her raw land in the woods in Ven­tura.

The Hun­dreds

THE HUN­DREDS X Ob­sid­ian show was at City Hall.

Arun Ne­vader Getty Im­ages for Art Hearts

CHAR­BEL Zoe’s spring/sum­mer ’20 show at Art Hearts.

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